Young Cincinnati Reds Get Experience While Team Has Growing Pains

Two of the Cincinnati Reds top prospects appeared with the big league club this week and were able to make some encouraging progress in the face of heightened competition.

Young Cincinnati Reds Get Experience While Team Has Growing Pains

First off, Cody Reed made his MLB debut against the Houston Astros in home-run friendly Minute Maid Park and made a promising start. He pitched seven innings, allowed four earned runs, six hits, three walks, and was able to strike out an impressive nine batters. Reed has earned his #34 prospect ranking by Baseball America in 2016 by producing a 3.20 ERA, 1.175 WHIP, 2.4 BB/9, and 8.8 K/9 with the Triple-A Louisville Bats before his call up.

With John Lamb‘s 5.1 innings, one earned run, eight strikeout performance on Friday, Cody Reed‘s debut on Saturday, and Brandon Finnegan‘s impending start against Mike Fiers on Sunday, the Reds showcased all three returns of the Johnny Cueto trade to Kansas City trade over the weekend with pleasantly surprising results.

Speaking of Finnegan, he had another great start as well. On Tuesday, against the Atlanta Braves, he pitched six innings, allowed one earned run, four hits, three walks, and got five whiffs with a 9:8 ground ball to fly ball ratio. This outing lowered Finnegan’s season earned run average and walks and hits per inning pitched  to 3.61 and 1.31, respectively.

Jose Peraza Gets Some MLB Time

Top Reds prospect and product of the Todd Frazier trade, Jose Peraza has been up at the plate with Cincinnati this week. This week Peraza has seen 15 at bats, 3 hits, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts, and unfortunately zero extra-base hits. However, the highly touted infielder has been able to grab three stolen bases this week in just three games started.

Peraza is currently the #66 ranked prospect according to Baseball America and he has had an up and down season at Triple-A Louisville with a .274/.318/.354 slash line and nine stolen bases out of sixteen attempts. This all coming in 223 total at-bats. Peraza is comparatively having a down year at the minor league level, as last season at the Triple-A level he had a .293 batting average with 33 steals in 40 attempts and he also was able to dominate the A+ and AA levels within the Braves organization; when he had a 2014 season with a phenomenal .339/.364/.441 slash line with 60 steals in 75 attempts.

Adam Duvall’s Hot Start Continues

Adam Duvall has continued with his break out season in the past week in a slew of extra-base hits at the expense of the Braves and Astros. On Monday in Atlanta Duvall smacked a three-run home run, then on Wednesday Duvall had a walk and a double with two runs scored as the Reds lost a tough one 9-8 to the struggling Braves. Thursday, as the Reds got trounced 7-2 in Turner Field he hit a solo homer. Then on Friday in the first game of the series in Houston, Duvall went 2 for 5 including a triple as the Reds came out victorious 4-2. On Saturday Duvall hit another long ball, this time a two-run shot, as the Reds lost another squeaker 5-4.

Overall Duvall has clobbered 20 home runs on the season in 226 at bats and has hit 16 doubles. Of Duvall’s 59 hits on the season, Duvall has hit 37 extra-base hits which means that 63% of all of his hits go for extra bases. Not only that, an incredible 16.4% of Duvall’s at-bats end with an extra base hit. Duvall’s on base percentage of .292 may be a little low, but his .606 slugging percentage and .345 isolated power figure currently lead the National League and his Defensive WAR of 0.7 clearly demonstrate he is a competent and developing outfielder. With a power bat like this, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Reds had back-to-back Home Run Derby Champions.

Jay Bruce Rejuvenation

Speaking of power-hitting, Jay Bruce also had a good week to keep the wheels rolling on his rejuvenating season. Since Monday Bruce has gone 7-23 at the plate for a .304 batting average and has hit four extra base hits in that time. He had two doubles and another triple to add to his MLB leading total of six, and one homer to give him 15 on the year. Bruce improved his slugging percentage to .574 which is fourth in the NL behind just teammate Adam Duvall, Daniel Murphy, and Nolan Arenado. His isolated power figure of .300 is runner-up in the National League, once again behind the other slugging Reds outfielder.

Bruce has seen solid improvement in a lot of peripheral figures in 2016. He has lowered his strikeout percentage from 22.3% to 20.9% thanks to lowering his swinging strikes percentage from 19.8% to 18.9%. His BABIP went from .251 in 2015 to .289 this season which looks very sustainable due to an improved balls in play percentage of 65% and an increase in line drives at a rate of 34%. While Bruce has been great at the plate, he has an ugly -1.6 Defensive WAR, which goes to show that his powerful arm isn’t enough to make him an above average defensive outfielder.

Billy Hamilton’s Progression

Luckily Bruce has Billy Hamilton there to cover a lot of ground with his mind blowing speed and track down fly balls in the outfield. This happened again on Saturday in Hamilton’s highlight reel catch in right field that he got to from dead center field before Bruce could get to it. That is why Hamilton has a 0.3 defensive WAR in just 164 at-bats this year.

Hamilton’s offensive work has been improving dramatically and it was apparent this week. In Hamilton’s first game back since June 8th against the St.Louis Cardinals, he went 2 for 4 and scored a run against the Astros. Hamilton would go 0 for 4 the the following game on Saturday, but his immediate hitting after a short break highlights the ground he has made throughout the year.

In 412 at bats last season Hamilton had an atrocious slash line of .226/.274/.289 and was still able to steal 57 bases in 65 attempts. This season thanks to a BABIP improvement of .264 to a much more true to ability .336, Hamilton has a slash line of .274/.312/.396 and 16 steals out of 20 tries. After batting just .218 with a .283 on-base percentage in April, Hamilton got it together in May with a batting average of .259 and an on-base percentage of .294. Since then, in 31 June plate appearances, Hamilton has exploded for a 1.036 on-base plus slugging complete with a .429 batting average.

Joey Votto

Another player who has once again made evident progression in the last week is Joey Votto. Since Monday, Votto has batted .391 in 23 at bats, walked a total of eight times for a Week 11 OBP of .548, and stole his 5th base of the year. Even though Votto is batting just .247 on the season, his frequent walking has produced a .375 OBP on the year and Votto’s 12 doubles and 11 homers have created a .435 slugging percentage. Even in a year where Votto is clearly not himself, he still has a very solid OPS of .810. His plate discipline picking up is a very good sign considering the Reds are picking up the bill on Votto for a good few years with a heavy price tag.

Week in Review

Overall, since last Sunday, the Reds went 3-4. Cincinnati currently sits 20.5 games outside of the Cubs in the NL Central and they are 9.5 games back from the Dodgers and Marlins for the second wild card spot with the second-to-worst record in the NL at 27-42.

The good news this week is that the players the Reds have committed to either through long term contracts, prospect development, or trades, are looking better than ever or good as new. With Jay Bruce’s persistent power at the plate, it is still looking inevitable that he makes a buyer out of teams like the Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants, or Kansas City Royals, and adds a new crop of prospects to the Reds Farm System by July 31st. Regardless, the Reds can only move forward week by week, looking for promise and encouraging signs from the large group of players who are under the age of 27. That is what week-to-week action looks like for a team in the rebuilding process.

Main Photo

CHICAGO, IL – JUNE 23: Billy Hamilton #6 of the Cincinnati Reds hits an RBI single scoring Chris Heisey during the ninth inning against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on June 23, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)